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Come, Thief: Poems Hardcover – August 23, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307595420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307595423
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jane Hirshfield is the author of six previous collections of poetry, a now-classic book of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, and three books collecting the work of women poets from the past. Her awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the Academy of American Poets, and the National Endowment for the Arts; three Pushcart Prizes; the California Book Award; The Poetry Center Book Award; and other honors. Her poems appear regularly in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Poetry and have been included in six editions of The Best American Poetry. Her collection Given Sugar, Given Salt was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and After was named a “Best Book of 2006” by The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the United Kingdom’s Financial Times. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

"French Horn"

For a few days only,
the plum tree outside the window
shoulders perfection.
No matter the plums will be small,
eaten only by squirrels and jays.
I feast on the one thing, they on another,
the shoaling bees on a third.
What in this unpleated world isn’t someone’s seduction?
The boy playing his intricate horn in Mahler’s Fifth,
in the gaps between playing,
turns it and turns it, dismantles a section,
shakes from it the condensation
of human passage. He is perhaps twenty.
Later he takes his four bows, his face deepening red,
while a girl holds a viola’s spruce wood and maple
in one -half--opened hand and looks at him hard.
Let others clap.
These two, their ears still ringing, hear nothing.
Not the shouts of bravo, bravo,
not the timpanic clamor inside their bodies.
As the plum’s blossoms do not hear the bee
nor taste themselves turned into storable honey
by that sumptuous disturbance.



"First Light Edging Cirrus"

1025 molecules
are enough
to call wood thrush or apple.

A hummingbird, fewer.
A wristwatch: 1024.

An alphabet’s molecules,
tasting of honey, iron, and salt,
cannot be counted—

as some strings, untouched,
sound when a near one is speaking.

So it was when love slipped inside us.
It looked out face to face in every direction.

Then it was inside the tree, the rock, the cloud.



"The Decision"

There is a moment before a shape
hardens, a color sets.
Before the fixative or heat of kiln.
The letter might still be taken
from the mailbox.
The hand held back by the elbow,
the word kept between the larynx pulse
and the amplifying -drum--skin of the room’s air.
The thorax of an ant is not as narrow.
The green coat on old copper weighs more.
Yet something slips through it—
looks around,
sets out in the new direction, for other lands.
Not into exile, not into hope. Simply changed.
As a sandy -track--rut changes when called a Silk Road:
it cannot be after turned back from.


"Vinegar and Oil"

Wrong solitude vinegars the soul,
right solitude oils it.

How fragile we are, between the few good moments.

Coming and going unfinished,
puzzled by fate,

like the -half--carved relief
of a fallen donkey, above a church door in Finland.


"The Tongue Says Loneliness"

The tongue says loneliness, anger, grief,
but does not feel them.

As Monday cannot feel Tuesday,
nor Thursday
reach back to Wednesday
as a mother reaches out for her found child.

As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.

Not a bell,
but the sound of the bell in the -bell--shape,
lashing full strength with the first blow from inside the iron.


More About the Author

Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven collections of poetry, including the newly released COME, THIEF (Knopf, 2011), AFTER (HarperCollins, 2006), which was named a "Best Book of 2006" by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and England's Financial Times, and a finalist for England's prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize; GIVEN SUGAR, GIVEN SALT (finalist for the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award), THE LIVES OF THE HEART, THE OCTOBER PALACE, and OF GRAVITY & ANGELS, as well as a now-classic book of essays, NINE GATES: ENTERING THE MIND OF POETRY. She is also the author of THE HEART OF HAIKU, an Amazon Kindle Single exploring the essence of haiku and its 17th-century founding poet, Matsuo Basho, which was named a "Best Kindle Single" and an "Amazon Best Book of 2011."

Hirshfield has also edited and/or co-translated three books collecting the work of poets from the past: THE INK DARK MOON: Love Poems by Komachi & Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan, WOMEN IN PRAISE OF THE SACRED: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, and, with Robert Bly, MIRABAI: ECSTATIC POEMS.

Hirshfield's other honors include The Poetry Center Book Award; fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets; Columbia University's Translation Center Award; and the Commonwealth Club of California's California Book Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, McSweeney's, Orion, seven volumes of The Best American Poetry (including the forthcoming 25th anniversary Best of the Best American Poetry volume), and many other publications, and has been featured numerous times on Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac program, as well as in two Bill Moyers PBS television specials. In fall 2004, Jane Hirshfield was awarded the 70th Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by The Academy of American Poets, an honor formerly held by such poets as Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop. In 2012, she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and also named the third recipient of the Donald Hall--Jane Kenyon Award in American Poetry.

Hirshfield's work has been called "passionate and radiant" by the New York Times Book Review, and After was described in the San Francisco Chronicle's Book Review as evidencing "the grasp of a master" and "filled with somber, judiciously lit treasures." A starred review in Booklist describes "poems of exquisite restraint and meticulous reasoning," while a British magazine, Agenda, states, "The poems' realized ambition is wisdom." The Washington Post describes Hirshfield as taking her place in the "pantheon of modern masters." Never a full-time academic, Hirshfield has been a visiting professor at UC Berkeley and elsewhere, a member of the Bennington College MFA faculty, and has appeared at writers conferences, literary centers, and festivals both in this country and abroad. Her books have appeared on bestseller lists in San Francisco, Detroit, Canberra, and Krakow.

Jane Hirshfield was born in New York City in 1953 and was a member of the first graduating class at Princeton University to include women. After graduating, she did a year of farm labor in New Jersey before moving west in a Dodge van with tie-dyed curtains. She studied Soto Zen intensively for eight years, including three in monastic practice at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the wilderness inland from Big Sur, and received lay ordination in 1979. She has cooked at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, driven 18-wheel truck, worked as the independent editor of several books that have sold in the millions, and spent four years living without electricity. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in a small white house surrounded by fruit trees, a vegetable garden, lavender, and roses, with scientist Carl Pabo.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Katy Butler on August 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Jane Hirshfield's poems manage to be voluptuous and stoic at the same time. In her latest, she runs out naked in the sun, sells her grandfather's gold watch to be melted down, touches the falling face of an old lover, eats an egg, runs out naked in the rain. But even as she shouts *more* to the sensual world, she knows she will lose, if she hasn't already lost, what she savors. That doesn't stop her from tasting, or yearning, or noticing.

As she moves into her 50s, some of these poems address loss via aging and the deaths of friends -- unless I'm just noticing them more for my own reasons.

Here is her precise image of the fraying mind of a well-educated friend with Alzheimer's: "When a fine old carpet/is eaten by mice/ the colors and patterns/of what's left behind/ do not change."

Here is a short poem in its entirety called

Memorial:

"When hearing went, you spoke more.
A kindness.

Now I must."

She's also a smart thinker. She has been my favorite contemporary poet since I read "For What Binds Us," a declaration of pride in the scars left by love. Reading her subtle, spare, yet quietly ecstatic work sharpens my own thinking and writing. I took this book to bed with me and read poem after poem. Here is an excerpt from one of the last poems in "Come Thief" that seems almost like a bookend to "For What Binds Us."

"A Hand is Shaped for What It Holds or Makes":

....Beloved, grown old separately, your face
shows me the changes on my own.
I see the histories it holds, the argument it makes

against the thresh of trees, the racing clouds, the race
of birds and sky birds always lose:
the lines have ranged, but not the cheek's strong bone.
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joe Flower on August 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Such an amazing book! Jane Hirshfield has long been my favorite poet for her perspicacity, her habit of long seeing, her ability to pull the string taut so that the poem transforms itself and the reader in the same moment.

This is my new favorite Hirshfield collection. Its hand is sure, its voice mature and magical. You will love this work.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By H on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jane Hirshfield is a poet without trying. She has a way with words. They say about some, "the camera loves them" but I think words love Jane then. She has a language all her own. She is able to say so simply what I feel unfolding in me with each word. She is able to capture the definition of what it means to be human, the human element, the loss, the sheer cosmic joke of human existence. She's amazing. There was rarely a page in this entire book where I didn't want to slap myself for not having written what she had, and had done so simply and so beautifully. She says in so few words what I can't yet say in this review about her. She is amazing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Niedt on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jane Hirshfield's latest volume helps further cement her reputation as one of America's best contemporary poets. One notes a slight shift stylistically with these poems: many are shorter in form, from the haiku-like "Pebbles" to "Sentencings", which bring to mind James Richardson's "Aphorisms", as well as a haibun and several other shorter works. But their brevity only intensifies their message and often stunning imagery. Hirshfield dabbles in formal and rhymed poetry here, more so than in previous work: one fine example is her villanelle, "A Hand is Shaped for What It Holds or Makes". Among the longer poems is the delightful "Shadow: An Assay", perhaps a carryover from the "assays" in her previous collection, After. It seems inevitable that maturing poets tackle mortality as a recurring theme; but as expected, Hirshfield handles it eloquently. Among the most moving are two poems, presumably about an ailing friend, "The Pear" and "Alzheimer's". This book is a rich and varied collection of poems on love, death, praise, and the little reflective moments of life. Hirshfield draws us into those moments and transforms them into epiphanies, often employing a startling and unexpected image or metaphor, as in the short poem "Love in August", where a moth at the door is described as "two hands/of a thief//who wants to put/back in your cupboard/the long-taken silver." There is no shortage of subtle humor in these poems, either, as in "Sweater", an ars poetica where she pokes a little fun at herself and her Zen lifestyle: "Irrefusable, the shape the sweater is given,/stretched in the shoulders, sleeves lengthened by unmetaphysical pullings on." This is an exquisite collection, one that you will want to read over and over again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By blackholepoet on October 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I confess to being a huge Hirschfield fan, so I would have been disappointed if this weren't first-rate work. It is, and the author has also managed to extend her range and craft. I'm a working, published poet and know how difficult it is to keep improving craft. H."s poems are always about the human condition, and this volume traces our problems through repeating and mirrored imagery. She always looks simple, but she's not. Highly recommended.
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On the second reading of this collection of Jane's poetry I gained more appreciation and insight. There are layers to the poems that make this book one I'll reread again.

Some of these poems are idea-based and follow Jane's early training. Others, like 'The Kind Man' and 'Alzheimer's', look more personally at family and friends.

I reread the collection following the order of the Acknowledgements list, which gave different perspectives for some poems and made me aware of how reading order can affect a poem's impact on the reader. Another plus for poets, the long Acknowledgments list of journals where the poems originally were published offers a way of finding journals for poets to submit their own work.
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